Fishmongers' Hall

Hulbert Statue Removal

At the end of Summer, we carefully removed the James Hulbert Statue from the iconic Fishmongers' Hall in preparation for building refurbishment.

Ben Sparkes, Constantine’s Technical Training Manager, first made a visit to Fishmongers’ Hall with Senior Technician, James Brightwell, in April this year. In order to protect the statue from planned refurbishment works, Ben and James fabricated a temporary wooden case whilst scaffolding was being erected. They later returned at the end of August to complete the full removal of the statue as refurbishment works developed.

The statue, a commemoration of Mr James Hulbert, was first assembled at St Peter’s Hospital in Wandsworth in 1724. It was then displayed on the grounds of Jesus Hospital and Almshouses in Bray and Upper Thames Street. It has been in its current position at Fishmongers’ Hall since 1978.

Given the age of the statue, both Ben and James had concerns about the structural integrity as there were signs of historic repairs to the subject’s head and right shoulder. There were also missing pieces of carving from the robes that point to previous damage during lifting operations and discoloured repairs in resin on the subject’s nose and lower body. Both the sculpture and the three sections of the plinth appeared to be set with a basic mortar mixture that could be chased out by hand before attempting to uplift the separate pieces.

The estimated weight of the statue is 800kg with an additional 25% contingency weight that totalled 1 tonne. Ben assessed the most effective lifting solution for the statue and carefully considered site access alongside time and safety restrictions.

Before starting the lifting operation, the Constantine team needed to remove the original skeleton crate that had protected the artwork in-situ during the renovation works. The material would then be cut down and re-used to transport and store the statue later on in the process. Due to the height of the work, Ben decided to use an extra tall A-Frame Gantry with a 3-tonne capacity.

Once the lifting slings were slightly loaded with the weight of the statue, the lifting team began to chase the joining mortar beneath the sculptures base and the top stone of the plinth. By having the weight of the statue supported by the lifting equipment, the team would not be at risk from the statue collapsing or shifting out of control whilst they were working beneath.

The team gradually worked around the object over the next hour until there was a small, but noticeable shift in the object. It was clear at that point that the statue had separated from its plinth. The lifting team continued to make final checks that all was in place and then proceeded to gently lift the statue about one centimetre on a single chain block. As soon as there was room to, the team passed the sling of a cargo strap beneath the sculpture and secured this to a second, back-up sling attached to the hook of a chain block. This manoeuvre was to ensure that a temporary safety measure was in place to prevent a collapse if there was any serious weaknesses in the lower portion of the statue.

The statue then easily lifted free of its base, and it was moved down the beam of the gantry so the team could carefully lower the work onto the crate base which was placed next to the plinth.

Once the statue was safe on the ground, the team attached a crane scale to the chain block and raised the statue to get an actual weight reading. The team each took a turn to estimate what it would be – if this had been a sweepstake, then some of our team would have left site with a much lighter wallet! The actual weight of the statue turned out to be 780kg.

In preparation for transporting the statue, the team fabricated a case around the work which included securing timber battens lined with plastazote. This form of casing allowed the team to access most of the statue and add support accordingly. On the second day of the project, the plinth parts were separated, weighed, palletised and taken into storage.

Constantine has since expanded its Specialist Installation and Heavy Lift team with the addition of Darrel Day, Technical Manager, who can help advise and support your next heavy lift project. For more information, please contact us.

Take a look at our Installation page for further information about our services.

See what we’ve been handling,
moving and installing

Newsletter sign-up

Receive the latest news and events from Constantine